Hospital CEO Pay Out of Alignment with Quality of Care

Cheryl Clark, October 16, 2013

Researchers find that the salaries of top hospital leaders can be linked to the use of advanced technology and favorable hospital experience survey scores. Facilities with low 30-day mortality rates pay their CEOs less than hospitals with the highest mortality rates.

Ashish  Jha

>Ashish Jha, MD, hospitalist and Harvard health policy expert

How much a CEO gets paid to run a non-profit hospital in the U.S. is not linked to how well that organization performs on quality and safety measures, readmission or mortality rates, its profit margin, or the extent of its charity care.

Rather, the top leader's salary is associated with the organization's level of advanced technology, and to the extent its patients respond favorably to federally required hospital experience surveys.

Those are some of the conclusions from the first study of executive compensation since non-profit CEO pay became publicly available last year in federal 990 tax returns for 2009. Those packages were then paired with outcome and process quality measures including those reported on Medicare's Hospital Compare, and mortality rates for 19 medical and surgical conditions.

The survey was undertaken by Ashish Jha, MD, and collaborators at the Harvard Department of Health Policy and Management and was published Monday in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

Jha postulates that since physician pay is partially determined by certain measures of quality, why shouldn't the compensation packages of hospitals' top executives be as well?


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